With the help of a fabulous grant from Autism Welcome Here, AWPL began a series of programs for teens and tweens on the autism spectrum. With the help of our newly trained Teen Autism Ambassadors, our Game Night program was a success!
We began the night by showing everyone a visual itinerary to help folks know what activities to expect during the course of the evening. Our visual itinerary was large enough to be seen from across the room, and combined text with pictures for clarity.
For the first half of the evening, we set up various board game stations throughout the community room. Uno, Trouble, and Connect Four were very popular! I finally learned how to play Mexican Train from a helpful volunteer. During board game hour, we also set up Giant Jenga made from soda boxes, which was a huge hit. Our Teen Autism Ambassadors were a bit shy at first, and needed a bit of encouragement to approach teens they did not already know. This will have to be addressed with them at future meetings so that future events go smoothly. Taking the initiative can be tough!
With so many games different games available, attention span didn’t seem to be an issue. Everyone seemed to keep busy and entertained. In fact, we began our second half of the night late in order to accommodate the folks who wanted to finish their board games.
For the second half of the evening, we played some live action games that involved larger groups of people. Bonus: live action games can be really fun just to watch, too! We played a cooperative game called The Floor is Lava and Hungry Hungry Hippos. We had plans to play a live action Flow Free game, but sadly ran out of time. Here’s how we played our live action games:
To play “The Floor is Lava,” you’ll need 4 small wooden boards big enough for teens to stand on. To play in teams, you’ll need 4 pieces per team. Each team lines up and uses the wooden boards to get to the other side of the room, laying down one board at a time to build a pathway, because the floor is made of lava! This game was a huge hit, and the cooperative nature of the game would have made it a perfect icebreaker game. We will keep that in mind for next time!
For Hungry Hungry Hippos, we paired up in teams to recreate a favorite childhood game. We used a sack of pit balls in place of marbles. Each team of two formed a hungry hippo. Teens lay down on scooters while their teammate holds their feet to “steer.” The teen on the scooter uses an upside down laundry basket to catch as many balls as possible. This is a really fun game for everyone! The teens had a blast and took turns steering and catching.
We ran out of time for Flow Free, based on the popular online game, but the plan was to use colored duct tape to make pathways from different points in the room without overlapping any lines. We’ll let you know when we field test it!
We wrapped up the night with a round of apple juice and gluten free snacks.
Want to host your own Game Night for teens on the spectrum? It can be a really cost effective way to introduce inclusivity into your teen program lineup. All of the games we played were donated, Giant Jenga was created by collecting old soda boxes, and our live action games were all low maintenance.
We had set aside a “quiet room” at the beginning of the evening for any teens who felt overwhelmed. While no one needed it throughout the course of the evening, we will continue to have a designated quiet room at out other programs. Our quiet room was set up in our staff room, located near the Game Night event but away from the noise. We added some comfy beanbag chairs for relaxing, as well as adult coloring books and colored pencils, and a few fidget spinners. I hope this gives some peace of mind to our participants, knowing they can escape to a quiet zone if necessary.
All in all the night seemed to be a success!